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that in his day the people of Japan practised the mortuary
custom (obtaining also in China) of placing pearls in the
mouths of the dead. " In the Island of Zlpangu^ (Japan),"

^ Note on I-vy and Mugzvort in Siberia in The Ascent of Olympus^ pp. 99-100.
- The god Ea of the Sumero-Babylonians.

' Zipangu and Cipangu are renderings of the Chinese Jih-pen ("the place the sun
comes from"), with the word Kuo^ "country", added. The Japanese Nihon or Nippon^


he says, " rose-coloured pearls were abundant, and quite as
valuable as white ones." Kaempfer, writing in the eigh-
teenth century, stated that the Japanese pearls were found
in small varieties of oysters {akoja) resembling the Persian
pearl oyster, and also in "the yellow snail-shell", the
taira gai {Tlacund)^ and the awabi or abalone {Haliotis).
A pearl fishery formerly existed in the neighbourhood of
Saghalin Island. As pearls have from the earliest times
been fished from southern Manchurian rivers, in Kams-
chatka, and on the south coast of the Sea of Okhotsk,
it may be that the earliest settlers in Japan were pre-
historic pearl-fishers. It is of special interest to note here
that, according to G. A. Cooke, pearls and ginseng (man-
drake) were formerly Manchurian articles of commerce.^
The herbs and pearls were, as we have seen, regarded as
" avatars " of the mother-goddess.

In Korea ginseng is cultivated under Government
supervision . " It is ", Mrs. Bishop writes,^ " one of the
most valuable articles which Korea exports, and one great
source of its revenue." A basket may contain ginseng
worth ^£4000. "But," she adds, "valuable as the culti-
vated root is, it is nothing to the value of the wild, which
grows in Northern Korea, a single specimen of which has
been sold for ;^40 ! It is chiefly found in the Kang-ge
Mountains, but it is rare, and the search so often ends in
failure, that the common people credit it with magical
properties, and believe that only men of pure lives can

and our Japan^ are other renderings of the Chinese name which was first used officially
in Japan in the seventh century a.d. Earlier Japanese names include Yamato and
0-mi-kuniy " the great dragon {mi) land", &c.

' ^ Yule, T/te Book of Ser Marco Polo (Book III, chapter iii), Vol. Ill, p. 200. Kunz,
Folk-lore of Precious Stones [Memoirs Internat. Congr. Anthrop.^ Chicago, 1894), pp.
147 et seq. G. A. Cooke, System of Uni'versal Geography, Vol. I (1801), p. 574.
J. W. Jackson, Shells as Enjidence of the Migrations of Early Culture (London, 1917),
pp. 106 et seq.

^ Korea and her Neighbours (London, 1898), Vol. II, pp. 95 et seq.


find It." The daemon who Is " the tutelary spirit of
ginseng ... is greatly honoured" (p. 243). A ready
market is found In China for Korean ginseng. " It Is a
tonic, a febrifuge, a stomachic, the very elixir of life,
taken spasmodically or regularly in Chinese wine by most
Chinese who can afford It" (p. 95).

In Japan, ginsengs mushroom, and fungus are, like
pearls, promoters of longevity, and sometimes, says Joly,
"masquerade as phalli" : they are "Plants of Life" and
" Plants of Birth ", like the plants searched for by the
Babylonian heroes GUgamesh and Etana, and like the
drao;on-herbs of China. ^

In Shinto, the ancient religion of the Japanese, promi-
nence is given to pearls and other precious jewels, and
even to ornaments like artificial beads, which were not, of
course, used merely for personal decoration in the modern
sense of the term ; beads had a religious significance. A
sacred jewel is a tama^ a name which has deep significance
in Japan, because mi-tama is a soul, or spirit, or double.
Mi Is usually referred to as an " honorific prefix " or
" honorific epithet", but It appears to have been originally
something more than that. A Japanese commentator, as
De Visser notes, has pointed out in another connection^
that mi is "an old word for snake", that Is, for a snake-
dragon. Mi-tama^ therefore, may as " soul" or " double"
be all that Is meant by "snake-pearl" or "dragon-pearl".^

^ The Chinese dragon, ICUh-lungy originated from a sea-plant called hai-lu. De
Visser, The Dragon in China and jfapan^ p. 72.

^ The Dragon in China and Japan^ p. 137.

'The temple of the Mexican dragon- and rain-god, TIaloc, was called "Ep-coatl",
which signifies "pearl-serpent" or "serpent-pearl". Young children sacrificed to
TIaloc by being thrown into the whirlpool {j>an tit Ian) of the lake of Mexico, were
also called "Ep-coatl". This sacrifice took place at the water festival in the first
month of the Mexican year. The infants were sacrificed at several points, some being
butchered on holy hills, including the "place of mugwort", sacred to the mugwort and
gem-goddess Chalchihuitlicue, wife of TIaloc. But only the children thrown into the
l^ke were called "Ep-coatl",


The pearl, as we have seen, contained "soul substance'',
the "vital principle", the blood of the Great Mother, like
the "jasper of Isis" worn by women to promote birth,
and therefore to multiply and prolong life ; in China and
Japan the pearl was placed in the mouth of the dead to
preserve the corpse from decay and ensure longevity or
immortality. The connection between jewels and medi-
cine is found among the Maya of Central America. Cit
Bolon Tun (the " nine precious stones ") was a god of
medicine. The goddess Ix Tub Tun (" she who spits out
precious stones") was " the goddess of the workers in jade
and amethysts". She links with Tlaloc's wife.

Accordinor to Dr. W. G. Aston ^ tama contains the
root of the verb tahUy "to give", more often met with in
its lengthened form tamafu. " Tama retains its original
significance in tama-mono^ a gift thing, and toshi-dama^ a
new year's present. Tama next means something valu-
able, as a jewel. Then, as jewels are mostly globular in
shape,^ it has come to mean anything round. At the
same time, owing to its precious quality, it is used symboli-
cally for the sacred emanation from God which dwells in
his shrine, and also for that most precious thing, the
human life or soul. . . . The element tama enters into
the names of several deities. The food-goddess is called
either Ukemochi no Kami or Uka no mi-tama.'' Phallic
deities are also referred to as mi-lama. The mi-lama is
sometimes used in much the same sense as the Egyptian
Ka : it is the spirit or double of a deity which dwells in a
shrine, where it is provided with a shintai ("god body") —
a jewel, weapon, stone, mirror, pillow, or some such

The jewels [tama) worn by gods and human beings were

^ Shinto (London, 1905), pp. 27 tt seq.

''* This does not seem to be the reason for the sanctity of a round object.


not, as already insisted upon, merely ornaments, but
objects possessing "soul substance". These are referred
to in the oldest Shinto books. In ancient Japanese graves
archaeologists have found round beads [tamd)^ "oblong
perforated cylinders " or "tube-shaped beads" (kuda-tamd)^
and "curved" or "comma-shaped^ beads" (maga-tama).
According to W. Gowland, " the stones of which maga-
tama are made are rock-crystal, steatite, jasper, agate, and
chalcedony, and more rarely chrysoprase and nephrite
(jade) ". He notes that " the last two minerals are not
found in Japan ".^

Henri L. Joly, writing on the tama, says^ it is also
" represented in the form of a pearl tapering to a pointed
apex, and scored with several rings. It receives amongst
other names Nio-i-HojiUy and more rarely of Shinshi^ the
latter word being used for the spherical jewel, one of the
three relics left to Ninigi no Mikoto^ by his grandmother,
Amaterasu!" The necklace of Shinshi^ mentioned. in the
traditions, was lost, and in its place a large crystal ball,
some three or four inches in diameter, is kept and
carried by an aide-de-camp of the Emperor on State

The pearl (tamd) is "one of the treasures of the
Takaramono, a collection of objects associated with the
Japanese gods of luck, which includes the hat of invisi-
bility {Kakuregasa)^ a lion playing with a jewel, ajar con-
taining coral, coins, &c.; coral branches (jangoju)^ the
cowrie shell (kai)^ an orange-like fruit, the five-coloured
feather robe of the Tennins, the winged maidens of the
Buddhist paradise, copper cash, &c."^ But although the

^ Or shaped like the teeth of tigers or bears.

* Archaologia, 1897 {The Dolmens and Burial Mounds in Japan)^ p. 478.
' Legend in Japanese Art, pp. 354-6. * Ancestor of the Mikado.

^ Goddess of the Sun. • Legend in Japanese Art, pp. 350-1.

(D71) 23


tama may correspond to the mani of the Indian Buddhists,
it was not of Buddhist origin in Japan ; the Buddhists
simply added to the stock of Japanese "luck jewels".

The tama of jade has raised an interesting problem.
Nephrite is not found in Japan. "It is difficult", says
Laufer, " to decide from what source, how and when the
nephrite or jadeite material was transmitted to Japan."
Referring to jade objects found in the prehistoric Japanese
graves, he says: "The jewels may go back, after all, to
an early period when historical intercourse between Japan
and China was not yet established ; they^ represent two
clearly distinct and characteristic types, such as are not
found in the jewelry of ancient China. If the Japanese
maga-tama and kuda-tama would correspond to any known
Chinese forms, it would be possible to give a plausible
reason for the presence of jade in the ancient Japanese
tombs ; but such a coincidence of type cannot be brought
forward. Nor is it likely that similar pieces will be dis-
covered in China, as necklaces were never used there anciently
or in modern times. We must therefore argue that the
two Japanese forms of ornamental stones were either
indigenous inventions or borrowed from some other non-
Chinese culture sphere in south-eastern Asia, the antiqui-
ties of which are unknown to us."^

The tama is of great importance in Shinto religion.
At Ise,^ "the Japanese Mecca", which has long been
visited by pious pilgrims, a virgin daughter of the Mikado
used to keep watch over the three imperial insignia — the
mirror, the sword, and the jewel {tama) — which had been
handed down from Mikado to Mikado. There were no
idols in the temples. The Shintai was carefully wrapped
up and kept in a box in the "holy of holies", a screened-

1 The Maga-tama ap'l the Kuda-tama. ^ yade^ pp. 353-4.

' Ise is the name of a proviace, and the nearest town to the " Mecca" is Yamada.


H. G. Pouting-. F.R.G.S.


Miyajima or Itskushima (" Island of Light ") is one of the San-Kei or " Three most beautiful

scenes of Japan". The island is sacred to Benten, the Goddess of the Sea, of Beaut}-, of

Wealth— one of the seven Divinities of Luck (see " The Japanese Treasure Ship ", page 352).


off part of the simple and unadorned wooden and thatched
little temple. The temple was entered through a gate-
way — the tori wi, a word which means "bird-perch", in
the sense of a hen-roost. "As an honorary gateway",
says Dr. Aston, " the tori-wi is a continental institution
identical in purpose and resembling in form the turan of
Tndia, the pailoo of China, and the hong-sal-mun of Korea.^
When this symbol of Artemis^ was introduced into Japan
is uncertain. "Rock gates" were of great sanctity in
old Japan. There is one at Ise — the "twin-rocks of
se .

The mirror was the shintai (god-body) of the sun-god-
dess ; the sword was the shintai of the dragon ; and the
jewel {tamd) was the shintai of the Great Mother, who was
the inexhaustible womb of nature. At sacred Ise, the
chief deities worshipped were Ama-terasu, the goddess of
the sun, and Toyouke-hime, the goddess of food.^ The
high-priest was the Mikado, who was a Kami (a god), and
called " the Heavenly Grandchild", his heir being "august
child of the sun", and his residence "the august house of
the sun".* After the Mikado had ascended the throne,
the Ohonihe (great food offering) ceremony was performed.
It was " the most solemn and important festival of the
Shinto religion", says Aston, who quotes the following
explanation of it by a modern Japanese writer :

" Anciently the Mikado received the auspicious grain from
the Gods of Heaven and therew^ithal nourished the people. In
the Daijowe (or Ohonihe) the Mikado, when the grain became ripe,
joined unto him the people in sincere veneration, and, as in duty
bound, made return to the Gods of Heaven. He thereafter par-
took of it along with the nation. Thus the people learnt that the

^ Shinto (1905), pp. 231-2. 2 Seg Index under Artemis.

' The temple of the sun-goddess is called Naiku, and that of the food-goddess Geku.
These temples are of wood, with thatched roofs. Every twenty years the buildings are
renewed. * Shinto^ p. 38.


grain which they eat is no other than the seed bestowed on them
by the Gods of Heaven;"

The Mikado was thus, in a sense, a Japanese Osiris.

Shinto religion was in pre-Buddhist days a system of
ceremonies and laws on which the whole social structure
rested. The name is a Chinese word meaning " the way
of the gods", the Japanese equivalent being Kami no
michi. But although the gods were numerous, only a
small proportion of them played an important part in the
ritual {noritu\ which was handed down orally by genera-
tions of priests until after the fifth century of our era,
when a native script, based on Chinese characters, came
into use.

Old Shinto was concerned chiefly with the food-supply,
with child-getting, with the preservation of health, and
protection against calamities caused by floods, droughts,
fire, or earthquakes. It has little or nothing to say
regarding the doctrine of immortality. There was no
heaven and no hell. The spirits of some of these
deities who died like ordinary mortals went to the land of
Yomi, as did also the spirit of the Mikado, but little is
told regarding the mysterious Otherworld in which dwelt
the spirits of disease and death. " In one passage of the
Nihon-gi^^ says Aston,^ '' Yomi is clearly no more than a
metaphor for the grave." It thus resembled the dark
Otherworld or Underworld of the Babylonians, from which
Gilgamesh summoned the spirit of his dead friend,
Ea-bani.^ No spirit of a god could escape from Yomi
after eating " the food of the dead ". When the Baby-
lonian god Adapa, son of Ea, was summoned to appear in
the Otherworld, his father warned him not to accept of

1 Shinto (1907), pp. 15-6.

' King, Babylonian Religion and Mythologyj pp. 35, and 174 et se^.


the water aiid food which would be offered him.^ The
goddess Ishtar was struck with disease when she entered
Hades in quest of her lover, the god Tammuz, and it was
not until she had been sprinkled with the " water of life "
that she was healed and liberated.^

The Mikado, being a god, had a spirit, and might be
transferred to Yomi or might ascend to heaven to the
celestial realm of his ancestress, the sun-goddess. Some
distinguished men had spirits likewise. But there is no
clear evidence in the Ko-ji-ki or the Nihon-gi that the
spirits of the common people went anywhere after death,
or indeed, that they were supposed to have spirits. Some
might become birds, or badgers, or foxes, and live for a
period in these forms, and then die, as did some of the
gods. There are no ghosts in the early Shinto books.^

The ancient Pharaohs of Egypt, like the ancient
Mikados of Japan, were assured of immortality. The
mortuary Pyramid Texts " were all intended for the king's
exclusive use, and as a whole contain beliefs which apply
only to the king ". There are vague references in these
texts to the dead "whose places are hidden ", and to those
who remain in the grave.* The fate of the masses did not
greatly concern the solar cult.

Before dealing with the myths of Japan, it is necessary
to consider what the term kami^ usually translated "gods",
signified to the devotees of " Old Shinto ". The kami
were not spiritual beings, but many of them had spirits or
doubles that resided in the shintai (god body). Dr.
Aston reminds us that although kami " corresponds in a
general way to * god ', it has some important limitations.
The kami are high, swift, good, rich, living but not

^ Myths of Babylonia and Assyria^ pp. 72-3. ^ Ibid.^ p. 95.

' Aston, Shinto (1907), p. 14.

* Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egyptj pp. 99 et seq.


infinite, omnipotent, or omniscient. Most of them had a
father and mother, and of some the death is recorded."^
It behoves us to exercise caution in applying the term
"animistic" to the numerous kami of Japan, or in assum-
ing that they were worshipped, or reverenced rather,
simply because they were feared. Some of the kami were
feared, but the fear of the gods is not a particular feature
of Shinto religion with its ceremonial hand-clappings and
happy laughter.

Dr. Aston quotes from Motoori, the great eighteenth
century Shinto theologian, the following ilFuminating
statement regarding the kami :

" The term kami is applied in the first place to the various
deities of heaven and earth who are mentioned in the ancient
records as well as to their spirits [mi-tama) which reside in the
shrines where they were worshipped. Moreover, not only human
beings, but birds, beasts, plants, and trees, seas and mountains, and
all other things whatsoever which deserve to be dreaded and
revered for the extraordinary and pre-eminent powers which they
possess are called kami. They need not be eminent for surpassing
nobleness, or serviceableness alone. Malignant and uncanny
beings are also called kami if only they are objects of general dread.
Among kami who are human beings, I need hardly mention, first of
all, the successive Mikados — with reverence be it spoken. . . . Then
there have been numerous examples of divine human beings, both
in ancient and modern times, who, although not accepted by the
nation generally, are treated as gods, each of his several dignity,
in a single province, village, or family."

In ancient Egypt the reigning monarch was similarly
a god — a Horus while he lived and an Osiris after he died,
while a great scholar like Imhotep (the Imuthes of the
Greeks in Egypt who identified him with Asklepois)
might be deified and regarded as the son of Ptah, the god

* SAinio (1907), p. 6.


of Memphis. Egypt, too, had its local gods like Japan;
so had Babylonia.

The Japanese theologian proceeds to say :

" Amongst kami who are not human beings, I need hardly
mention Thunder (in Japanese Nuru kami or the sounding-god).
There are also the Dragon and Echo (called in Japanese Ko-dama
or the Tree Spirit), and the Fox, who are kami by reason of their
uncanny and fearful natures. The term kami is applied in the
Nihon-gi and Manjoshiu to the tiger and the wolf. Isanagi (the
creator-god) gave to the fruit of the peach and to the jewels round
his neck names which implied that they were kami^'^

Here we touch on beliefs similar to those that obtained
in China where the dragon and tiger figure so prominently
as the gods of the East and the West. The idea that the
peach was a kami appears to be connected with the Chinese
conception of a peach world-tree, a form of the Mother
Goddess, the fruit of which contains her " life substance "
or shen as do the jewels like the pearl and jade objects;
the peach is a goddess symbol as the phallus is a symbol
of a god.

Motoori adds :

" There are many cases of seas and mountains being called
kami. It is not their spirits which are meant. The wurd was
applied directly to the seas or mountains themselves as being very
awful things."^

There were a beneficent class and an evil class of kami.
Beneficent deities provided what mankind required or
sought for; they were protectors and preservers. Four
guardians of the world were called " Shi Tenno ". They
were posted at the cardinal points like the Chinese Black
Tortoise (north), the Red Bird (south), the White Tiger

^ Here wc have the sanctity of jewels and other so-called "ornaments" brought out
very clearly. ^ Alton, Shinto (1907), pp. 6-7.


(west), and the Blue or Green Dragon (east). The
Japanese colour scheme, however, is not the same as the
Chinese. At the north is the blue god Bishamon or
Tamoten; at the south the white-faced warrior Zocho;
at the west the red-faced Komoku with book and brush
or a spear ; and at the east the warrior with green face,
named Jikoku, who is sometimes shown trampling a demon
under foot.

In India the north is white and the south black, and
in Ceylon the Buddhist colours of the cardinal points are
yellow (north), blue (south), red (west), and white (east).

Although it is customary to regard the coloured
guardians of the Japanese world as of Buddhist origin, it
may well be that the original Japanese guardians were
substituted by the Hindu and Chinese divinities imported
by the Buddhists. The dragon-gods of China and Japan
were pre-Buddhistic, as De Visser has shown,^ but were
given, in addition to their original attributes, those of the
naga (serpent or dragon) gods introduced by Buddhist

* The Dragon in China and Japan,

Japanese Gods and Dragons

Japanese Version of Egyptian Flood Myth — A Far Eastern Merodach —
Dragon-slaying Story — The River of Blood — Osiris as a Slain Dragon —
Ancient Shinto Books — Shinto Cosmogony — Separation of Heaven and Earth
— The Cosmic "Reed Shoot" and the Nig-gil-ma — The Celestial Jewel Spear
— Izanagi and Izanami — Births of Deities and Islands — The Dragons of
Japan — The Wani — Bear, Horse, and other Dragons — Horse-sacrifice in
Japan — Buddhist Elements in Japanese Dragon Lore — Indian Nagas — Chinese
Dragons and Japanese Water-Snakes.

There is no Shinto myth regarding the creation of
man; the Mikados and the chiefs of tribes were descend-
ants of deities. Nor is there a Deluge Myth like the
Ainu one, involving the destruction of all but a remnant
of mankind. The Chinese story about Nu Kwa^ known to
the Japanese as Jokwa, was apparently imported with the
beliefs associated with the jade which that mythical queen
or goddess was supposed to have created after she had
caused the flood to retreat, but it does not find a place in
the ancient Shinto books. There is, however, an interest-
ing version of the Egyptian flood story which has been
fused with the Babylonian Tiamat dragon-slaying myth.
Susa-no-wo,^ a Far Eastern Marduk, slays an eight-headed
dragon and splits up its body, from which he takes a
spirit-sword — an avatar of the monster.

Hathor - Sekhet, of the Egyptian myth, was made
drunk, so that she might cease from slaying mankind,

1 See Chapter XX.


and a flood of blood-red beer was poured from jars
for that purpose. Susa-no-wo provides sake (rice beer)
to intoxicate the dragon which has been coming regularly
— apparently once a year — for a daughter of an earth god.
When he slays it, the River Hi is "changed into a river
of blood".

Another version of the Egyptian myth, as the Pyramid
Texts bear evidence, appears to refer to the "Red Nile"
of the inundation season as the blood of Osiris, who
had been felled by Set at Nedyt, near Abydos.-^ Lucian
tells that the blood of Adonis was similarly believed to
redden each year the flooded River of Adonis, flowing
from Lebanon, and that " it dyed the sea to a large space
red".^ Here Adonis is the Osiris of the Byblians.
Osiris, as we have seen, had a dragon form; he was the
dragon of the Nile flood, and the world-surrounding
dragon of ocean.^ He was also the earth-giant; tree and
grain grew from his body.* The body of the eight-
headed Japanese dragon was covered with moss and trees.

Susa-no-wo, as the rescuer of the doomed maiden,
links with Perseus, the rescuer of Andromeda from the
water-dragon.^ The custom of sacrificing a maiden to
the Nile each year obtained in Ancient Egypt. In the
Tiamat form of the Babylonian myth, Marduk cut the
channels of the dragon's blood and " made the north
wind bear it away into secret places".* The stories of
P'an Ku of China and the Scandinavian Ymer, each of

^ Breasted, Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt, p. 26. The Texts referred to are :
" His brother Set felled him to the earth in Nedyt. . . . Osiris was drowned in his

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